Whether you run a business, manage a marketing firm or work in user experience (UX), you know that customer journeys are becoming more complex. The world is going through a digital transformation, and it involves a stream of new technology and digital users.
The average business relies on several communication channels to engage its audience. You now need a functional understanding of the user experience of chatbots, websites, apps, ads, social media and email. That’s not to mention your customer service representatives, salespeople and product itself.
And you need to portray a consistent brand message and offer a seamless experience across them all while utilizing each one’s strong points.
In simple terms: It’s getting harder to keep track.
At the same time, it’s becoming more important to do so. Research shows that experience is dethroning product and price as the top priority for differentiating your business.
Becoming experience-driven has a lot of benefits. It starts with better understanding your customers so that you can meet and exceed their expectations. In turn, it does fun things like boost customer satisfaction, foster loyalty and makes your business, well, more successful.
But if you want to increase conversion rates with UX, you have to start somewhere. By somewhere, we mean with journey mapping.
What Is Journey Mapping
In an international study of 248 customer experience professionals, two-thirds said their organizations utilized customer journey mapping. Of those, 90% claimed it had a positive impact, and over a third claimed it was extremely positive.
So, what’s the big deal?
Customer journey maps — also called buyer journey maps and user experience maps — are a way of mapping customers’ entire experience with your brand across all channels and touchpoints.
Touchpoints are anywhere the customer interacts with your brand. This includes anything from your website to your business card.
And by “entire experience,” we mean how you interact with customers from beginning to end, including pre- and post-purchase contact.
The purpose of customer experience mapping is to go through each step in the customer journey, and at each of those steps, identify how they feel, their needs, the actions needed to meet those needs, how they make decisions, the questions they might have and how you respond to it all.
All departments can then use the insight to meet customer needs, answer their questions, and create a frictionless experience that pushes them through to the next step. Design and marketing teams can optimize designs and marketing copy to fit customer flows.
But there are three musts behind every customer journey map.
1. Accepting Users’ Truth
A customer journey map is, above all else, about how the user or lead perceives your business and navigates your products. Not your design team. Not you. The user.
There can always be a disconnect between how you view yourself and how users view you. It does no good to base action on the former. Sometimes, a user experience map can even be the key to uncovering these discrepancies.
When 73% of users claim that a good experience is a deciding factor in their brand loyalties, they hardly mean someone else’s idea of a good experience.
2. Sticking to Evidence
You create a proper journey map from real research and real behavior — not pure hypotheticals or anecdotes. We’re too close to our projects and products to see them without bias or the way a new user would.
And, when you build it yourself, it’s all but impossible to come at it with new eyes. Of course, you know how to navigate it flawlessly. You can’t say the same for someone else without testing it out.
Only research can uncover the real user journey – the steps they take, the order they take them in and the trial and error they experience. There are many types of UX research methods, from customer interviews to eye tracking, that you can use to better understand actions like site browsing and purchase behavior.
You need to combine this research with detailed user personas to create a map worth building.
3. Integrating the Whole Lifecycle
Journey maps can vary in scope (more on that below), but businesses must develop a map that focuses on the entire customer lifecycle.
By evaluating the beginnings of customer awareness and action, you learn where people drop off. You discover areas to improve, errors to fix and where to retarget to get leads back on track.
But retaining current customers is cheaper than obtaining new ones and just as vital to long-term success. So, it’s as important to track customer experience in post.
As a result, many center their maps around four buyer journey stages: awareness, consideration, decision and after-sale. This can be effective so long as you remember that not all users buy, and you focus on the problems you’re solving at each step of the journey.
Journey Maps Vary in Scope
Not all journey maps are created to evaluate all brand touchpoints. Those that are become sidekicks to service design — the designing of a full service, including employee experience, UX and all the details of how to provide it. Due to their extensive nature, these maps influence service development and start with high-level analysis.
UX designers, on the other hand, often use maps for specific projects and goals. As a result, a UX map may focus more on digital touchpoints and user flows. These maps are detailed and account for the entire digital customer journey relevant to the product. For example, a UX designer working on a website will still account for what led a user to the tool and how they act after using it, including interactions with digital ads, apps, review sites and more.
Regardless of a map’s scope, it’s easy for it to become a confusing and discouraging mess of detail. If this is your experience, review these tips to simplify your customer journey map for easier interpretation and direction.
12 Benefits of Creating a Customer Journey Map
Create Better Experiences
Customer journey maps exist to encourage customer-centered design that, inevitably, leads to better experiences. By understanding how your target audience encounters your products, you can compare customer expectations to reality and fill in the gaps. You gain the power to enhance your strengths and improve your weaknesses, upgrading your UX.
Expand Your Audience
Maps call out the areas your users struggle with, such as confusing parts of software or pain points on your website. Improving these friction areas enhances usability. Invest in accessible design, and you stand to grow your reach by making it so all users, including those with disabilities, can engage with your business.
You may also discover areas where your copy alienates certain demographics and learn to make your writing inclusive to all people.
Make Your Marketing More Effective
With a better understanding of your audience’s decision-making process, you can customize your marketing to address their desires and needs.
Part of customer mapping also involves segmenting your audience into personas. This will provide insight into what different audience segments prefer in terms of messaging, timing and platform. You can use this information to ensure that potential leads see your ads and listen to what you have to say.
Advance Into Omnichannel Marketing
By default, the nature of journey maps will push your marketing strategy towards omnichannel marketing. In other words, you create a continuous and seamless experience for customers between all channels used.
This is because referencing a journey map that addresses all touchpoints will unite your marketing, sales and customer service channels. It will further encourage user-driven marketing and allow for accurate retargeting of leads across channels.
Part of omnichannel marketing’s success is due to the mere-exposure effect — a psychological principle that addresses people’s preference for things they are familiar with. While some studies show that 10 to 20 exposures is most effective, the Marketing Rule of 7 claims otherwise.
Regardless, with your marketing mapped out to create on-brand touchpoints across all channels, you’ll increase customer familiarity, and thus preference, of your brand.
Help Users Achieve Their Goals
When you help users achieve their goals, you improve user satisfaction while boosting task completion rates.
By learning your users’ motivations, you can better satisfy their desires. By knowing common questions, you can provide answers in advance. When you understand where they’re taking the wrong actions or getting blocked, you can make adjustments to lead them towards the right path.
When your users get what they want, so do you.
Better Understand Your Customers
Customer journey maps provide a thorough understanding of your current and potential customers. You may have buyer personas, but you’ll get the most benefit out of creating journey maps that detail how each buyer persona moves through your sales cycle.
This will give you the power to personalize your strategies. True personalization targets effectively, exceeds expectations and converts. A shallow attempt misses the mark and, in worse case scenarios, offends.
Improve Customer Retention
You’ve probably noticed a trend among the benefits of journey mapping thus far: They all increase your conversion rates. As it turns out, they also benefit retention and reduce churn rates.
A useful map accounts for post-purchase experiences and creates the opportunity to foster brand loyalty. You can use the knowledge of when and why customers leave to get them back and prevent recurring issues. You can also predict customer behavior and stay ahead of needs, decreasing problems and complaints.
Better Communicate Research Findings
Whether it’s for your benefit or others’ understanding, journey maps provide extra value to UX research by summarizing the findings in a digestible and applicable way. A UX professional can convert immense amounts of research into a concise, visually compelling story that better communicates the data’s meaning. After all, research doesn’t do much good unless it’s understood.
Prevent Silos and Unite Stakeholders
Since customer journey maps are an effective way to portray the customer experience across many levels of an organization, they’re also great for uniting stakeholders and preventing organizational silos. Silos occur when departments act separately, and their information or goals aren’t in line with each other.
When there is one map to reference, it enables stakeholders to discuss opportunities to improve customer experience as a whole and keeps employees of different departments on the same page.
Quicken Sales Cycles and Make Tasks Efficient
Observing a users’ journey step by step helps to spot areas of redundancy. By removing unnecessary steps and making tasks more efficient for the user, you implement information architecture that supports UX.
Users who complete tasks faster can move through the stages of the sales cycle more quickly, speeding up your average sales process.
Scale Your Business
Journey maps make it clear where you can improve and help to define goals. With goals made, strategies become purposeful and easy to track. With everyone aligned, processes become more efficient.
Then continue to re-evaluate your journey map and customer expectations. You’ll find that doing so encourages you to keep up with technology and industry trends — a necessary effort to stay ahead of the curve.
Generate Opportunity for Innovation
A user journey map’s job is to find areas for improvement; your job is to improve them. With knowledge of user frustrations and wants, you can develop innovative solutions to benefit your business or even become new products.
Before You Get Started
To sum up this article: You could use a customer journey map. Whether it’s to map out your entire brand or to create a UX-based website, it’s worth the effort (if you do it right). This is because no matter your company’s size, the importance of a good user experience remains.
But despite the power a journey map lays at your feet, there is something you should never forget: Everyone is different. You can segment audiences all day and calculate user motivations, but you can never discount the importance of the individual.
So when you use your journey map to create personal experiences based on segments and personas, don’t forget to tailor it to the exact individual anywhere you can.
If you’re ready to get started, check out our guide on how to create a customer journey map.